Ravens are targeting reliable receiver

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- One Baltimore Ravens official thought general manager Ozzie Newsome went into too much detail when asked about the team's priorities this offseason.

Newsome said the Ravens need to get bigger in the interior of the offensive line, need to add a more athletic safety and need to bring in a receiver who can make tough third-down receptions and run after the catch. It's the last part that should get everyone's attention. Judging the comments by team officials, wide receiver is going to be a major priority this offseason.

The Ravens, though, aren't looking for a No. 1 receiver. In their mind, there are only a handful of true No. 1 receivers like Calvin Johnson. What the Ravens want is a go-to receiver, someone who can line up outside or in the slot and make the clutch catches.

That's what the Ravens missed the most out of their receiving group. Torrey Smith couldn't get off press coverage. Marlon Brown isn't polished. And Jacoby Jones isn't consistent.

The Ravens finished 20th in the NFL on third-down conversions and near the bottom in red zone offense, which is often a losing combination. Joe Flacco never had that reliable target.

"I already know this and I won’t share it with you [but] I think we’ve identified the type of receiver that we want," Newsome said. "And when John [Harbaugh] told me, I lit up, because I was right there with him as to what we’re looking for in a receiver this year. And I think before the 2014 season ends, we will have that guy on our football team.”

A reporter asked Newsome whether the Ravens could get the receiver before the season ended, and Harbaugh chimed in.

"I’m going to put a little pressure on Ozzie to get that going a little bit before the first game, if possible," Harbaugh said with a smile.

So, where will the Ravens find that receiver?

"That player will be available between now [and the start of the season], whether it’s in free agency, whether he’s a cap casualty, whether it’s in the draft or whether it’s through trade," Newsome said.

In other words, Baltimore is going to explore every option. The Ravens typically sign players who have been cut instead of unrestricted free agents, but even that could change this offseason.

The top unrestricted free-agent wide receivers are: Eric Decker (87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns), Julian Edelman (105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns), Hakeem Nicks (56 catches for 896 yards an no touchdowns) and James Jones (59 catches for 817 yards and three touchdowns).

"Even if it means we have to go out and get a UFA this time, which means we probably lose a compensatory pick, we won’t say, ‘No’ to anything," Newsome said. "We look at everything from an individual standpoint, and then we see what’s going to make us better for this year and years going forward.

If the Ravens look to the draft, potential targets in the first round are Texas A&M's Mike Evans, Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin (if he declares for the draft) and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews.

But Newsome said there is a risk involved by going this route.

"You can draft a Torrey Smith in the second round and you can have some success, and you can draft Travis Taylor in the first [round] and you can blow it," Newsome said. "The wide receiver position in the draft -- there are a lot of hits and misses."

If the Ravens want to elevate the passing game, they can't afford to strike out when adding the next impact receiver.